Full disclosure: I know that the original screenwriter of Fantastic Four, Jeremy Slater, was a contributor for CHUD, and the article linked to in this piece is also from a former CHUD contributor, Devin Faraci. I have no affiliation with these individuals and am simply stating my honest appraisal of the information provided.
The blame game of Fantastic Four continues to spiral into one of the most fascinating and depressing pieces of modern movie history. As with most disasters, there’s more than one culprit to pursue. Josh Trank has been fielding most of the hate, but it’s becoming more apparent that Fox itself played an equal or greater role in sabotaging their own movie. Today’s target is producer Simon Kinberg, who is also credited as a screenwriter. Kinberg (along with Josh Trank) rewrote Jeremy Slater’s first draft, and Birth.Movies.Death has detailed an extensive synopsis on that original version.
And it sounds terrible.
First of all, thanks to the unanimously negative response to the finished version, you could say that the original draft was a My Dinner with Andre take on Marvel’s First Family and we’d all say, “Oh, that sounds sooo much better than the [insert negative hyberbole here] we got!” Once you’ve been forced to eat a bowl of shit, a shotglass of piss seems like a decent alternative.
Secondly, the movie synopsis given in the article goes beyond being overstuffed. It sounds downright impenetrable to any casual filmgoer. It’s easy to make comic fans salivate by including notable characters and moments ripped straight from the source material, but there’s a reason that kind of stuff sounds great on the page: it was born and perfected on the page. Just because the original draft (which is way too lengthy and convoluted to summarize here) is jam-packed with the kind of goofy cosmic wackiness funnybook fans adore doesn’t mean that it will translate well to the screen (Doctor Strange is going to have the most to prove on this front, and I sincerely hope it succeeds). Slater’s version sounds like it could make a pretty fun comic book, but as a film it comes across as accessible only to the hardest of hardcore Marvelites. Not to mention there are a good handful of bad/unnecessary ideas present in this version as well. The time jump present in Trank’s version is still there (now multiplied to four years!), a completely extraneous addition of the Mole Man and the Moloids, a tantalizing but ultimately fruitless use of Galactus that should have either been the film’s main focus or saved for a sequel, and the best (read: worst) one of all: Johnny Storm as a reality show star. Yeah, no one would have ridiculed that.
I know that one of the biggest arguments against the current version (which I want to go on record as believing is a bad movie, but not the terrible one it’s been painted as) is the tone and lack of Fantastic Four familiarity, and because this original version sounds stuffed to the gills with familiar faces and a jauntier vibe to it, it’s probably going to be praised as “the best Fantastic Four movie never made.” What it actually sounds like is a garbled mess of nerdbait that probably would have been equally mishandled by the people in charge of getting it to the screen, regardless of its tone.
It’s always enlightening and amusing to get a glimpse at movies that never were. I’m a die-hard advocate of David Hughes’ books Tales from Development Hell and The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, and even though the majority of the films in those books sound incredible, that doesn’t mean they would have ended up that way. Fantastic Four‘s newest recipient of blame seems to be its own inability to produce a good story for the screen.
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